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#pounditTuesday, January 31, 2023

Kawhi Leonard

Clippers could trade for close Kawhi Leonard friend?

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

The LA Clippers could be making things a bit more fun for their Fun Guy.

Sam Amico of Hoops Wire reports this week that the Clippers are interested in bringing back former All-Defensive First Teamer Serge Ibaka for the right price. Ibaka is currently with the Milwaukee Bucks, but his tenure with the team is effectively over as the Bucks recently agreed to find a new home for the frustrated Ibaka.

The 33-year-old Ibaka, who has been away from the Bucks for several weeks and counting, already played for the Clippers for two seasons from 2020-22. He is known for his close friendship with Leonard, whom he won an NBA title with on the Toronto Raptors in 2019. Leonard has made a number of appearances on Ibaka’s “How Hungry Are You?” YouTube series, and the two continued with their adventures when they reunited on the Clippers.

At 25-24 this season, the Clippers are lacking big bodies in their frontcourt. Starter Ivica Zubac is being overextended, Nicolas Batum (6-foot-8) and Robert Covington (6-foot-7) are undersized, and the likes of Moses Brown and Moussa Diabate are probably better suited for the G League right now. The Clippers already have another member of that 2019 Raptors title team on their roster as well (Norman Powell), and bringing Ibaka back into the mix could solve some of their issues.

Video: Kawhi Leonard hilariously left Clippers mascot hanging

Kawhi Leonard ignoring the Clippers mascot

Kawhi Leonard is officially back (in more ways than one).

Leonard and the LA Clippers had their best win of the season on Monday against the NBA-best Boston Celtics, blowing them out by a 113-93 final. It was also Leonard’s best individual game of the year — he scored 25 points on an impressive 10-for-12 from the field to lead the Clippers’ charge. The game marked Leonard’s first 20-plus-point performance in over 500 days (he suffered a torn ACL in June 2021 and has been easing back ever since).

After Leonard’s postgame interview with Bally Sports, Chuck the Condor, the Clippers mascot, was waiting to get his autograph. Leonard picked up Chuck’s pen as if to sign but then just … didn’t. Check out the funny video.

Whenever the Clippers win at home, Chuck is always there waiting for an autograph after the interview with the player of the game, presumably for a fan giveaway. Paul George, Reggie Jackson, and Norman Powell are among the many Clippers who have signed for Chuck after a winning performance.

But the enigmatic Leonard was not feeling it Monday. Not to worry though for Chuck as that is just who Leonard is (even when with his teammates).

Is Kawhi Leonard’s knee injury worse than Clippers are saying?

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

A few short weeks ago, Los Angeles Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard expressed an optimism regarding his recovery from a partially torn ACL. He shared his philosophy on limited minutes and how that might lead to a strengthened knee over time.

But that optimism has faded. Rapidly.

Leonard did not join the Clippers on a two-game road trip this week and has not played since October 23. And while head coach Tyronn Lue did say Leonard is “getting better,” there is some growing frustration. That frustration may continue to grow for Leonard and the Clippers.

After fear mounted that Leonard was dealing with tendinitis, FOX Sports insider Chris Broussard now suggests the injury might be much worse.

“I’ve talked to some people around the league about this. A week ago, (the Clippers) feared Kawhi had tendinitis. Now, there’s a fear that it’s worse,” Broussard said on First Things First. “Now, I don’t know what that means. Does that mean he re-injured it — I don’t want to say re-injured it. But is it just not fully healed?

“I don’t know if it’s physical, as in there’s still a problem with the knee, or if it’s mental in that Kawhi has, for the most part throughout his career, not wanted to play unless he’s 110 percent.”

For now, there’s no concrete timetable for Leonard’s return to the court. There’s also no transparency when it comes to his injured knee. What is certain is that the Clippers are a much weaker team without his presence, and they desperately need Leonard back sooner rather than later.

Clippers have disappointing update on Kawhi Leonard’s status

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It is a new season but the same old story for Kawhi Leonard.

LA Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue told reporters before Monday’s home game against the Houston Rockets that the star forward Leonard will not join the team on their upcoming two-game trip to Houston and San Antonio. Lue added that Leonard is frustrated but “getting better,” according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.

Leonard has played in just two games thus far this season, averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 21.0 minutes per contest. But he reportedly felt stiffness in his surgically-repaired knee after an Oct. 23 game against the Phoenix Suns and has not played since. Leonard has already missed five games for the Clippers and will now sit out for at least two more.

The former Finals MVP Leonard suffered a partial ACL tear in his right knee back in June 2021 and has also been managing a degenerative quadriceps condition in the same leg for the last several seasons. The good news for the Clippers is that it is still only October and that they have the depth (at least on paper) to survive some regular season time without Leonard. But the bad news is that the Clippers are only 2-4 right now and really need Leonard out on the floor to build chemistry with the rest of their nucleus after he already missed all of last season. Leonard’s health is not the only issue the Clippers are facing in the early going either.

Kawhi Leonard explains his philosophy on return from torn ACL

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

During the Los Angeles Clippers’ run to the Western Conference Finals in 2020-2021, Kawhi Leonard suffered a torn ACL. That injury caused him to miss the entire 2021-2022 season.

But here in 2022-2023, Leonard is back on the court for the Clippers and already making an impact, albeit in a limited role.

Leonard explained his limited minutes on Friday night and what it means for the health of his ACL.

“You gotta gradually play minutes in order to get the ACL strong. Once you start playing 38 minutes first game, it could easily weaken up,” Leonard told reporters. “I’m listening to the doctors with that.”

Most athletes, regardless of sport, can usually return from a torn ACL in 8-10 months. Procedures and rehab have made tremendous strides in recent years, but there often tends to be a lull initially. Whether it’s mental or physical, a player doesn’t truly return to form until they’re a year-plus removed from the original injury.

Perhaps the limited minutes and limited role for Leonard will help prevent against re-injury. The only adjustment he needs to make is a mental one, which is no issue at all after missing 82 games last season.

“This is how I started my career. That’s how I approached it, mentally. Act like I was in foul trouble and once I check in the 2nd quarter, it’s time to play basketball,” Leonard added, via Sports Illustrated.

As Leonard’s ACL strengthens, his role will increase.

Report: Clippers considering surprise Kawhi Leonard move

Kawhi Leonard in uniform

Feb 26, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Clippers will have Kawhi Leonard back and available for the first time in over a year on Thursday, but they may not deploy him in the usual way to start with.

The Clippers are considering bringing Leonard off the bench to begin the season in order to monitor his minutes, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. The plan sounds like it would be temporary if the Clippers do go that route, though it is not clear how long they would stick to it.

The Clippers clearly have some concerns about Leonard’s workload, at least initially. These concerns would seem to go back to the offseason. They are not an indication that Leonard is not fully healthy, but the team does not want to push the 31-year-old too far.

Leonard last played in June 2021 in a playoff game against Utah. A torn ACL kept him out for all of last season.

Kawhi Leonard has funny take on Lakers’ season opener

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

If you think Kawhi Leonard made time to watch the Los Angeles Lakers’ season opener on Tuesday, you would be sorely mistaken.

Leonard was asked Wednesday if he had any reaction to the Lakers’ loss to the Golden State Warriors to start the year. It’s safe to say the answer was no, partly because Leonard does not really care.

“I don’t watch basketball like that,” Leonard said.

Hey, fair enough. Leonard would not be the only athlete to not really bother watching the sport they play. Honestly, it isn’t even a surprise, since Leonard is pretty famously even-keeled about everything and definitely does not seem the type to obsessively keep an eye on his rivals.

Leonard might just not be big on sports in general unless he’s playing. He didn’t seem very hyped about the NFL last we saw, either.

Kawhi Leonard’s new magazine cover contains hilarious detail

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It is safe to say that Kawhi Leonard, The Fun Guy, is officially back.

The LA Clippers forward appeared on the cover of SLAM Magazine’s new Nov. 2022 edition along with fellow co-star Paul George. Check it out.

Some hawk-eyed fans noticed a hilarious detail about the cover — namely, that Leonard peeled the Nike logo off his Clippers uniform for the shoot.

You can’t really blame Leonard here, as he is one of New Balance’s most prominent athletes. Furthermore, Leonard used to be signed to Nike, but they had a pretty messy split. Leonard once even filed a copyright lawsuit against Nike (which he ultimately lost) over their use of his “Klaw” logo.

The former Finals MVP Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season as he recovered from his ACL injury but is now ready to return for the Clippers. With it being nearly a year-and-a-half since we last saw Leonard play, it is good to know that his hatred for Nike still burns as fervently as ever.

Ty Lue has concerning quote about Kawhi Leonard return

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard missed all of last season after suffering an ACL injury during the 2021 playoffs. The Los Angeles Clippers forward appeared to be making solid progress in his recovery toward the tail end of last year, but a new quote from his coach is at least a little bit worrisome.

In an interview with Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints, Tyronn Lue deferred when asked if Leonard would be ready to play for the start of the regular season.

“I don’t know,” Lue chuckled when asked about Leonard’s status.

Lue might be deflecting or leaving himself some wiggle room here, but it is a little worrisome if Leonard will not be ready to play at all after roughly a year and a half out. It is also possible that the Clippers would rather be very cautious with their franchise forward, knowing that the goal is to find playoff success more than anything else.

Leonard certainly looked to be in great shape the last we saw of him. One would think he has to be close by the opener, though the Clippers will likely watch his workload carefully.

Kawhi Leonard looks absolutely jacked in new video

Kawhi Leonard in a warmup shirt

Jun 8, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) warms up prior to game one in the second round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Now over a year removed from surgery to repair his partly torn ACL, Kawhi Leonard appears to be going full “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”

A video went viral Tuesday of the LA Clippers star Leonard walking around in the gym looking like MuscleBob BuffPants. Leonard seemed to have put on significant muscle since we last saw him, especially in the lower body.

Leonard, now 31, missed all of last season as he continued to recover from his injury. Fans did get the chance to see Leonard during the occasional warmup session though, and he was definitely a lot skinnier than that.

The multi-time Finals MVP Leonard is officially listed at 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds. The Clippers look poised to compete for a title next year, and they could be getting back a version of Leonard that is far bigger than the one that they previously had.